You realise that South Korea is technically at war when you see the large numbers of American soldiers at almost every street corner in Seoul (around 35,000 are based here) - spoke to a few at the local Starbucks (they proudly had their military uniforms on) and they told me they are ready for an attack anytime. Most buildings are built with a helipad and notices for emergency shelters (as shown below) can be seen everywhere around the city.
The most nervous border in the world, followed closely by India Pakistan. From my hotel window at The Ritz-Carlton Seoul, everyday could see helicopters and fighter jets doing sorties...just speechless...they fly quite low too. Never seen that over a major city before. When you meet a US Military personnel on the streets, you can't help but go up to them and shake their hand. Very proud of the US Military and for how they are keeping the world a safer place.
If you are in Korea, then you must try authentic 100% Korean Ginseng tea- hot or cold is OK.
4 or 5 days is enough time to explore the city of Seoul.
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Situated in the heart of Seoul’s fashionable Gangnam district, The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul is the only Ritz-Carlton pretty in South Korea. The luxury hotel, with 375 well-appointed guest rooms, including 47 luxury hotel suites and 75 Club level rooms, is where South Korea’s innovative present and traditional past intermingles in an elegant, architectural wonder.
The only thing that one may find confusing is that from the outside it just looks like a normal tall building with very little exterior design or architectural element added to it. In a nutshell, from the outside it looks exceedingly boring and not quite the posh hotel one may be looking for. It’s a shame that such a lovely well-known high quality brand has not capitalized on using the finest of designs or architectural elements to make this building stick out like a sore thumb. However, once one steps inside then it’s another story altogether. Inside you’ll truly feel that this is the authentic Ritz-Carlton experience.
This was one of the first Ritz-Carlton properties in Asia Pacific and one can see that when you compare the slightly old-fashioned Versailles-inspired interior, such as the bathroom without the rain forest shower or the automatic air-conditioning, with most of the modern Ritz-Carlton properties in China for example.
The service, nevertheless, is nothing but exclusively of a Ritz-Carlton standard and authentically South Korean. As one of the most distinctive luxury Seoul hotels, The Ritz-Carlton invites you to relax and experience the unmistakable sights, sounds and flavors of South Korea. All the rooms are equipped with the latest technology, including a fully integrated TV and internet system, with video on demand, satellite television and high speed internet. For the most luxurious experience, why not pamper yourself in one of the suites where all the rooms offer a balcony that offers stunning views across the city with the N Seoul Tower visible in the distant on one side and Gangnam on the other.
After a day spent exploring, there is nothing better than to retreat to the impeccable hotel featuring an award-winning Presidential suite, an array of gourmet restaurants serving a repertoire of international cuisines, an 8-hole indoor golf course and driving range, and Asia’s first Pevonia Spa. There is also a cosmetic surgery located next to the Pevonia Spa, where guests can come and get their cosmetic surgery and then relax at the hotel until they make a full recovery.
The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul function space hosts gatherings from intimate executive board meetings to large-scale conventions. Among the hotel’s flexible meeting and event venues are the fabulous Grand Ballroom and generous pre-function areas. A team of talented chefs is on hand to present catered affairs both onsite and outside the hotel. Specialties include Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and other international cuisines, and individual menu requests are easily accommodated.
Discerning guests staying at any one of the rooms at the Club Level can enjoy the access to the Club Lounge which offers complimentary food and drinks five times a day, plus complimentary access to meetings rooms, but above else offers the peace of mind that you can while away your time in quiet surroundings away from the hustle & bustle.
How to get here:
If you are arriving at Seoul Incheon International Airport, then take the clean, air-conditioned and efficient Limousine bus operated by Korean Airlines. It costs about $ US 16 one-way to go from the airport straight to The Ritz-Carlton hotel, and takes around 40-minutes. As with courtesy in South Korean culture, before I bordered, the driver bowed to me out of respect.
You may also use the very clean, efficient, and inexpensive metro. It is a one-minute walk from Exit 4 at Sinnonhyeon Station, subway Line 9. Gangnam subway station, on Line 2, is only a three-minute car trip or an easy eight-minute walk. Incheon International Airport is approximately a 60-to-90 minute drive from our downtown hotel, and Gimpo Airport is approximately a 30-minute trip on Line 9, making staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul an obvious choice for international guests.
Lovely gifts from great friends in Hangzhou. To respect their privacy wishes, I won't name them here...but you know who you are :-) A massive thanks to all.
Situated in a quiet affluent neighbourhood in Hangzhou's Binjiang District, Angelo's Bar is a nice cosy bar where you can just chill out on a Friday or Weekend evening with family, friends or colleagues. A popular haunt for Hangzhou's immigrants (sorry I meant expats!) who want to stay away from the noisy/touristy eateries and bars in downtown Hangzhou. The food is VERY good (in my opinion), the ambiance is great and they have a nice selection of drinks. Average meal with a drink can cost around 100-150 RMB per person (about US $18-25).
My latest article for Skylife, the in-flight magazine for THY Turkish Airlines. Click here for the link.
Xiamen in China is well-known as a city that hosts many art exhibitions. On my short 2 day trip, I came across many lovely sights that projected art in one way or another.
Xiamen, located in eastern China, is famous for four main things: Gulangyu Island (which is vehicle free and hosts many British colonial style buildings), South Putao Temple (Nan Putao Si), fresh delicious seafood, and Xiamen University, notably with one of the most beautiful university campuses in China. Two days are enough to go and experience this tiny city.
Qingdao is one of the cleanest and most liveable cities in China. Immaculately clean beaches.
Qingdao is a coastal city located in Shandong Province in east China. The city is famous for its beautiful buildings with German architecture, the seaside (one of the cleanest beaches in China), beautiful parks and the famous Tsingtao brewery, which is the second largest brewery in China. Two days are enough to see the whole city. Because of its German influence, Qingdao has a strong connection with German food and culture. The German airline, Lufthansa, flies regular weekly services from Frankfurt and Munich. Thankfully the weather was on my side for the short weekend break I took.
Always nice to read your own article in an in-flight magazine! Came across my own words on a China Southern Airlines flight from Hangzhou to Qingdao recently -- 'nihao' magazine (click here to read more).
The Gallery Suites is a wonderful boutique hotel neatly hidden away on Hengshan Road in the fabulous Xuhui District of Shanghai. If you want to experience what life must have been like in 1930s Shanghai then have a go at staying at the Gallery Suites.
All the generously spacious rooms come with antique mahogany furniture, ultra-comfortable beds, complimentary Chinese or Western breakfast, free wi-fi, a mini-bar and tons of space...you'll feel like royalty. There are tons of cafes, restaurants and the main shopping area of Xuhui is within a 5-minute walk. Each bedroom contains an expensive antique artwork, which is available for purchase. Worth a stay.
Ridiculously delicious...and only 4 RMB (about US $0.60)...but EACH bite is worth a million dollars. Shame that even the BEST Chinese restaurants outside of mainland China don't serve this. The chefs at this company cafeteria in Hangzhou deserve more attention than they get.
Sunrise over India...flying over Ahmedabad with a Qatar Airways Boeing 777 keeping us company in the Indian skies (we are at 41,000ft flying to HKG, and they were flying to Shanghai Pudong)....this is the closest I'm going to get to India for a long time (until I get my hands on a Visa!!): Photo Copyright Navjot SIngh
Located 37 kilometres (23 mi) south west of Dubai, the Al Maktoum International Airport opened on 27 June 2010. It costs about 120 Dirhams and takes around 30 minutes by taxi to get to from the city centre. The airport is relatively underused by only a handful of airlines. I flew out of it with Qatar Airways to Doha: Photo Copyright Navjot SIngh
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